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WHS loses tough 5-set match to New Ulm before section seeding

The Worthington High School volleyball squad lost in five to New Ulm Thursday in Worthington, but confidence remains for the section tourney

Worthington's Ellie Weg (15) and Janessa Hamann (13) leap to block a hit from New Ulm's Amber Lee (5) Thursday night in Worthington.
Worthington's Ellie Weg (15) and Janessa Hamann (13) leap to block a hit from New Ulm's Amber Lee (5) Thursday night in Worthington.
Tim Middagh/The Globe
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WORTHINGTON -- The final regular season match for the Worthington High School volleyball team Thursday night was important for seeding purposes in the upcoming Section 2AAA tournament.

But while the Trojans needed to come in with fire, it was rival New Ulm that had the momentum early inside the WHS gym on Seniors Night. The Eagles had enough left over at the end for a 25-17, 19-25, 25-16, 16-25, 15-13 victory.

Though the loss was disappointing for the Trojans, head coach Courtney Opdahl believes her team can be ready for the tournament, which begins Wednesday. This year’s WHS team, she said, “feels different” in that it’s primed for winning.

“Oh, yeah. We have a really strong team and we’re looking forward to the next game,” Opdahl said. “We still have confidence. It just comes down to making less errors than they do. They (the Trojan girls) still believe that we can win.”

Trojans Madeline Petersen returns the serve from New Ulm Eagles during a Thursday night game in Worthington.
Worthington volleyball player Madeline Petersen returns a serve from the New Ulm Eagles Thursday.
Tim Middagh/The Globe

Thursday’s loss means Worthington will be on the road for its first section tournament game (seeding is Sunday). The match with New Ulm showed once again that the Trojans have enough strength in the front row, enough good servers, and enough athleticism to make a tournament statement in 2022. But their abilities weren’t quite enough to overcome a New Ulm team that took the initiative early Thursday night and put the Trojans on their heels in the first game.

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“We just came out slow. As the game went on, we picked up our speed and our focus. New Ulm just blocked really well. They blocked, and they dug the ball,” Opdahl said.

As strong as the Eagles looked in the first set, Worthington was out of sync and at times appeared to get in each other's’ way. The Eagles played well in the back row as the Trojans mis-timed their leaps and hit too many balls into the net.

Worthington Trojans setter Addison Gerber (5) lines up a spike for teammate Ellie Weg (15) during Thursday night's match with New Ulm Eagles.
Setter Addison Gerber (5) lines the ball up for teammate Ellie Weg (15).
Tim Middagh/The Globe

Worthington played much better in the second set after New Ulm moved to an 8-1 early lead. Madeline Petersen made some key serves, and when a Madison Beckmann ace put WHS in the lead at 13-12, the Eagles were forced to take a time-out to regroup. An ace hit from Jayden Spartz gave the hosts the 25th point.

But New Ulm bounced back in the third set, falling behind 12-11 on a Tarren Spartz ace block but scoring the next five points to take control.

Worthington trailed 5-1 in the fourth set but fought back to take a 19-10 lead. Strong net play by Tarren Spartz kept the Trojans in front. A perfectly placed soft ace hit by Beckmann made it 24-15, and Tarren Spartz recorded the 25th point from the net.

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The fifth set was tight throughout, but the Eagles caught a big break that gave them an 11-9 lead. On a blind shot from the back row, with her back to the net, an Eagle sent the ball over to the other side that landed just inside the sideline -- bringing on loud cheers from the sizable New Ulm cheering section. Worthington finally lost by two points.

Worthington is now 17-11 on the season. New Ulm is 13-10.

Tarren Spartz finished with 18 kills, three blocks and 15 digs, and was 15-for-17 serving with two aces. Ellie Weg had 17 kills, three blocks and 15 digs, and was 10-for-10 at the line. Regan Schaefer put all 12 of her serves in play and added 12 digs. Jayden Spartz was 15-for-16 serving with four blocks. Beckmann had 10 kills. And Addison Gerber made 40 set assists.

Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at dwolter@dglobe.com.
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